I love, love, love Big Bang Theory. I couldn’t have been happier to see Jim Parsons win the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy this year…again. I want be friends with every single character on the show and am certain I’m meant to hang out with this cast. That is why I am so upset that my first review of the show cannot be a glowing, gushing fan report.
“The Speckerman Recurrence” starts with a good back and forth between Penny and Sheldon, which has become a staple of the show and is always enjoyable. During this exchange, Leonard discovers a bully from his past, Jimmy Speckerman, has connected with him via Facebook and now wants to get together. Sheldon then goes through a catalog of embarrassing occurrences from Leonard’s past and we find he had an inordinate number of bullies to contend with growing up. Leonard is unsure of whether or not he wants to meet up with Jimmy, but ultimately decides to go ahead so he can make Jimmy apologize for all the awful things he did when they were younger. At this point in the show I had a small sense of foreboding, but had faith the writers would not allow it to become too cliched. It was false hope, with the bully showing up, wanting only to have Leonard not only “go in on” an investment opportunity, but to get him to build the device for the investment opportunity. After the guys leave the bar (Raj, Sheldon and Howard having only gone to see Leonard get beat up), Jimmy shows up at their door drunk and apologetic, he spends the night at the apartment with Leonard and Sheldon. In the morning, quite predictably, Jimmy turns out to be a jerk and doesn’t remember apologizing for anything. When he starts belittling Leonard, Leonard stands up to him and in the following scene we see he and Sheldon running down flights of stairs, fleeing from Jimmy but feeling vindicated. I think the lesson here was meant to be that the bullies of the world will end up lesser than the nerds they pick on, but we never hear much about Jimmy’s life now, just that he alludes to Leonard doing better than him. I would have liked to see Jimmy developed a little more since he was the central focus of the episode.
Then there are the girls. Penny, Burnadette and Amy Farrah Fowler all gather in Penny’s room to talk about Leonard’s bully problem. Amy and Burnadette both discuss their own experiences with bullying growing up, while not surprisingly, Penny can’t recall any bullies when she went to school. She then goes on to tell a story about a “great joke” they played once on a girl in a corn field that reveals Penny herself was a bully. When Penny attempts to call and apologize to everyone she was cruel to, no one accepts the gesture. Possibly because they can hear in her voice how little she seems to mean it. I was surprised that Penny wasn’t more distraught by her realization. The Penny we know is generally kind, a bit snarky, but not someone who is presented as amoral. Her lack of interest in trying to do a good deed to make up for things done in the past is a little disappointing as well and made me dislike the character a bit. In the end, Penny even manages to make Burnadette’s suggestion to donate her clothes self serving. It all just seemed like a missed opportunity to delve into Penny’s past or redeem her after her bad behavior. That being said, I do love the addition of Burnadette and Amy in more permanant roles and think it is a clever addition to the cast in order to add some depth and intelligence for the female viewer and to give Penny someone to play off of in a way she can’t with the male characters. Amy Farrah Fowler’s thinly veiled crush on Penny lends itself to many a comedic moment and I thoroughly enjoy her character. It’s so much fun to see actors from my childhood, like Mayim Bialik, coming back to television.
The shining moments in this episode go to Sheldon and Burnadette. Sheldon standing up for Leonard when he mistakes Jimmy’s praise of Leonard as sarcasm is unexpected and though misguided, pretty sweet. He also doled out a very well-timed joke about killing Jimmy in his sleep when he shows up to the apartment drunk, as vindication for all the bullies who have ever tormented any of them. Burnadette’s time to shine came at the end of the episode when leaving the donation center, but then turning back to steal some boots that were donated she shouts, “It’s okay, I serve soup to poor people”, it was a moment very reminiscient of a Seinfeld sketch. Other than that this was a lackluster episode. Not bad, just not up to the intelligent, comedic standards I am accustomed to the show being capable of. There were much fewer “laugh out loud” moments than I have come to expect from the show.